At least 18 CRPF personnel were killed as a convoy of the paramilitary force was targeted by terrorists in Awantipora area on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway on Thursday, in one of the deadliest attacks in the valley since Uri in September 2016.
The attack took place at around 3.15 pm when the convoy was moving from Jammu to Srinagar, police sources said. The toll is expected to go up, the sources said.
The convoy, comprising 70 buses in which around 2500 personnel were travelling, was targeted in Ladoora area on the new Expressway, CRPF Director General RP Bhatnagar told ANI.
A bus was extensively damaged in the blast which was followed by firing on the vehicle, he said.
The cause of the blast is being ascertained, Bhatnagar added. “We suffered damage to the vehicle and men,” said a senior CRPF official here. The injured have been shifted to a hospital, he added but refused to give the casualty figure.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) SP Pani told reporters that it was a terror incident and an investigation is being conducted to ascertain the nature of the explosion.
This is the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir since September 2016 when an Army camp was stormed by terrorists in Uri, killing 19 soldiers. Earlier, in 2004, 28 BSF personnel were killed in an attack on a convoy of the paramilitary force.
Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was caused by a suicide bomber, according to a local news agency.
PDP President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the attack.
In a tweet, she said, “Disturbing news coming in from #awantipura. Twelve of our security personnel have been martyred and several have been injured. No words are enough to condemn the gruesome terror attack. How many more lives will be snuffed out before this madness ends?”
National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also condemned the attack. “Terrible news coming from the valley. A number of CRPF soldiers are reported to have been killed & injured in an IED blast. I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. My prayers for the injured & condolences to the families of the bereaved,” he tweeted.
“Jaish has claimed the blast as a suicide (fidaeen) attack reminiscent of the dark days of militancy pre-2004-05,” Abdullah added.